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The Time My Students Saved Me from Drowning

April 20, 2014

Dear students at Christian Academy of Knoxville.

I want to thank you for something you did for me many years ago, and I never did take time to openly express my heartfelt appreciation for your care.

There are some of you from that particular class that are reading this blog, I know.  Would you be so kind to pass this along to the other students?

We had some wonderful times in and out of the classroom, from head-on debates to acting in skits together.  I helped you in a sidewalk chalk drawing contest one time, and on another occasion, you made me into the Silver Surfer by completely covering me in aluminum foil for an all-school event.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about something else.

imageYou remember the incident, don’t you?

We all gathered for a Senior Retreat at Fort Bluff in Dayton, Tennessee for a weekend of spiritual renewal and reflection.  This was our time with Jesus.  We were there to hear some great music of praise and a straight-to-the-heart speaker.  I was one of your chaperones.

That means I was sent to keep you in line.  Or counsel you when needed.  Or to help organize the various activities.  I was considered an authoritative figure and was expected to be a reliable counselor.  I was trusted to  come alongside you as you sought to get some answers about the Lord’s leading in your young life.  You saw me as a strong figure.

But you didn’t know what was going on in my life.

I was falling apart.

My wife’s fibro myalgia was the worst it had been in over a decade.  She was bedridden for most of the daytime, weak with fatigue and confusion.  We were trying numerous doctors who couldn’t help us out with anything more than a shrug of the shoulders and a bottle of temporary medicinal help.  One person even made contact with us, offering to assist us in our time of need, but she was working a scam based on our medical needs.  She was a charlatan, and I caught her ruse just before she tried to capture our credit card numbers and milk our bank account.  My wife Jill was unable to attend to our newborn and so my evenings were spent in home care for both my wife and our new baby as well as caring for my other two boys.

Bills were piling up, so I gathered myself together and took on a second job of writing in the evenings, taking in work from all over the country.  I was ghostwriting books, scripting copy for advertisers, and publishing novels for magazines.   My boys also took jobs where they could, in addition to their regular school studies.  They also yearned for – and deserved –  a social life, so they were involved in sports and youth group activities.  I was taxi service to them, driving them to wherever they needed, and still tending to my poor wife.  Jill was trying her best, God bless her, but fibro myalgia is a cruel and teasing disease that will give you false hope time and time again before plunging you back into despair.

I was fumbling through my Bible during my personal devotions.  My Scripture reading became strained and unfocused.

And then we arrived at the Spiritual Retreat.  You didn’t know that by the time I got to the campout I was beyond tired.   I was so fatigued that I was numb as I unloaded my gear in the cabin – nothing seemed to be real.  As I trudged to the chapel I felt like things were swirling about me and I could hardly comprehend them.   I couldn’t relax; I was constantly thinking of the next writer’s deadline I had to meet.

This was combined with my own sickness; I was diagnosed with an advanced illness known as hypothyroidism.  In short, it meant that I was facing a daily battle with two great enemies:  fatigue and depression.  The dark cloud of depressive terror loomed over me for hours and even days at a time.  I would do my best to cover it up while in the classroom only to have it slam in full force upon me once my children and wife were all asleep.   I was ordained to be a spiritual soldier for Christ, but the Enemy had my crawling in confusion and despair.  Yea, I was going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, walking the silent and dark halls of our household through the evening and morning hours, barely getting any sleep.

On the opening night of the retreat, I was drowning.

A praise group was opening up the evening’s time of worship.  I could hear the music around me, but as one plunged underneath the waves, sinking, the music seemed to be far off and drifting away.

One of the team asked for anyone to call out with a praise or prayer request.

If you remember, that’s when I blurted out.

“I need help,” I cried.  “My dear wife Jill is terribly sick and bedridden and we see no cure for her.  I’m tired and we’re out of money.  The doctors have no answer and we’ve spent everything trying to get answers.  I’m exhausted and don’t know what the Lord wants me to do.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m confused and worn out and discouraged and broke.  I am at the end of my rope.”

Before I knew it, students surrounded me and covered me with prayer.  You laid your hands on me and went into prayer without any hesitation.  There was no formality to it, but a sincere and deep committed call to the Heavenly Father for healing and help.  Some of you wept, others whispered, some knelt.  I felt those dozens and dozens of hands on my shoulders and head and listened to the prayers.  I was too weak to respond.  The prayers continued.

I felt the love and strength of the Lord slowly breaking the shell.  It didn’t happen completely, you might remember, but I’m here to tell you that when I stepped out into the evening air, I was beginning to get healing.  The wounds of despair and anxiety were lessening in intensity.

I needed to let Jesus back into my life and give me a peace that passes all understanding, and you opened the door for that to happen.  Students came over and prayed for me and walked alongside me throughout the night.  I understand that many of you went into other rooms and prayed for me.

And you saved me from drowning.

I made it through.  By God’s grace and mercy I made it through.image

No, I didn’t get a million dollars or a huge promotion coming down out of the sky.  But what I did get was hope – and a new vision.  Jill still had fibro myalgia, and she still does to this day.  We still fight hard to pay all of the expenses.  I still have two jobs.  But, oh, how the perspective has changed.  Happiness and laughter rule our household each evening.  We joke and josh evening, even  when we’re tired.  Jesus is a vibrant part of our home and we enjoy His presence round the clock.

You, my students, helped turn me around.  Your prayers worked.

Thank you, my dear friends at Christian Academy of Knoxville.  I will never forget that night.  You saved me from drowning.

“… I thank my God on every remembrance of you…” 

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